Poking at Distrobox

I’m probably late to the party, but Distrobox has to be one of the best open source projects to drop in the past few years. No matter which Linux distro I standardize on, there’s inevitably something I want to run that runs best or only on another distro. Or I just want to dip into a shell for $distro real quick to verify whether a certain package exists, or what the package name is, the default config for an application, etc.

Or I’d like to run two instances of an application with different profiles, without having to set up a whole virtual machine.

Distrobox provides an easy answer for many of those use cases. Distrobox lets you run “any Linux distribution inside your terminal.” There’s a slight asterisk next to “any” in the form of “the distribution has to have a ready made Docker container you can pull.” But the number of distros I’d like to run and the number of distros that don’t have an official container are few and far between. The only exception that comes to mind is Slackware, which has a container on Docker Hub but it hasn’t been updated in about 7 years.

But, if you want to run a mainstream-ish Linux distro on top of your existing distro, Distrobox has you covered. I set up Distrobox this evening on top of a laptop running Pop!_OS and had Fedora 37 running in a container with Chromium playing YouTube videos in about 5 minutes. Pretty snazzy.

In theory, Distrobox will even let you run other architectures like ARM64 on top of AMD64, but that remains to be seen. I tried out a Fedora ARM64 image on Distrobox but it seems almost hopelessly slow. Nice party trick, perhaps not that useful in real life.

But if you want to run AMD64 containers on AMD64 hosts, seems perfectly suitable. Going to be using this much more in the future and will write up any useful tips or tricks I run into.

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